Bill introduced to protect wetlands

State would regulate nontidal areas
June 11, 2020

Legislation introduced June 3 would create state-level protections for nontidal wetlands that may no longer be covered by federal regulation.

Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, sponsored Senate Bill 233, which would create a state-level defense of nontidal wetlands in Delaware.

“Delaware’s freshwater wetlands are a priceless asset both in this state and in the regional ecosystem,” Hansen said. “We rely on these areas for clean drinking water, flood protection, migratory bird populations and so much more. If the federal government is going to walk back their protection of these crucial waterways, then our state needs to step up as soon as possible.”

The federal Navigable Waters Protection Rule scheduled to take effect June 22 will amend the definition of which waters warrant protection under that act, Hansen said, notably leaving out nontidal wetlands and other smaller bodies of water.

She said federal changes have focused on defining which bodies of water are covered by the Clean Water Act – passed to prevent water pollution with no clear definition of what bodies of water are covered.

Delaware is the only state in the Mid-Atlantic region without state-level protections for nontidal wetlands. These waters include marshes, swamps, and the shallow margins and headwaters of streams and rivers, which had previously been protected by Environmental Protection Agency regulations enforced through the Army Corps of Engineers.

“Wetlands like these are invaluable,” Hansen said. “There are thousands of acres at stake and when we lose these, it sets off a chain reaction of species loss throughout our environment.”

Although her bill will likely not be heard by the General Assembly this year due to meeting constraints brought about by the coronavirus, Hansen said, she intends to reintroduce the bill in January 2021 when the General Assembly session returns.

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